Wearing a mask keeps the coronavirus from spreading. It’s so important, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that cloth masks are one of the most powerful tools available to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
At UVA, we require everyone to wear a mask while in our buildings. We can provide masks if you don’t have one.
Masks don’t just prevent the spread of coronavirus. They can also prevent the spread of the flu, the common cold, and other respiratory diseases.
Why Should I Wear a Mask?
A face mask doesn’t protect you. It protects other people from you, if you have the coronavirus. Other people wearing their masks does protect you, by lowering your risk of catching the coronavirus from them.
When everyone wears a mask, the risk of virus spread goes down. A mask:
- Stops the virus spreading from people who don’t know they are infectious, since they don’t have symptoms
- Restricts how far droplets of saliva from can travel through the air when you talk, cough, or sneeze
- Lowers the possibility of droplets with coronavirus landing on someone
Even when you wear a mask, you should still practice social distancing of at least 6 feet and keep your hands clean. Combined with wearing a mask, these steps lower the risk of spreading the virus even more.
What’s the Proper Way to Wear a Mask?
- Make sure your hands are clean before touching your mask.
- The mask should cover your nose and mouth, reaching below your chin.
- It should be snug along the sides of your face.
- You should NOT use masks that have vents or valves for exhaling, as these aren’t good for preventing the spread of droplets.
The CDC specifically says you should use a cloth mask and not a surgical mask or N95 respirator. Surgical masks and N95 respirators should be saved for healthcare professionals to use. This helps avoid a shortage of these important tools.
When Should I Wear My Mask?
Wear your face mask:
- Whenever you’ll be around anyone who doesn’t live with you
- Whenever it will be difficult to keep 6 feet away from others, like when you are indoors
- Whenever you’re feeling sick and will be around other people, even if you’re at home
The CDC has special recommendations and adaptations for people who can’t use a mask because they have a disability or other medical condition.
Taking It Off
Since the coronavirus might have landed on the outside of your mask, it’s important to be careful when touching it to take it off. When removing your mask:
- Make sure you washed your hands or used hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
- Only touch the loops or ties that keep the mask in place.
- Fold the mask by bringing the outside corners together.
- Put your mask aside for washing.
- Clean or sanitize your hands after touching the mask.
Keep Your Mask Clean
Most cloth masks can be cleaned with your laundry. You can use regular laundry detergent. Use the hottest water you can that won’t damage the fabric. See the CDC’s recommendations for washing masks.
How Can I Get a Mask?
Cloth masks are available to buy online or in many grocery and department stores. Disposable masks are also available.
You could also make your own mask. See our guidelines for making a mask.